The 4 Step Checklist for Great Email Branding

I know what you’re thinking.

Email branding?

Yup, we’re serious! You should brand your email marketing.

But why?

Well, email marketing is simply an extension of your brand communications.

And you want each email you send to make a lasting impression on your subscribers, right?

From the big things like your tagline to small things like the color you use for hyperlinks, every detail of your brand is important. You want people to recognize you, remember you, and return to you again and again.

But in a world where we are inundated with hundreds, sometimes thousands of emails a week, how do you create a brand that will stand out and draw people in?

In this article, we will outline specific steps that you can take right now to brand your email marketing, which will significantly improve your overall performance!

1. Start with the basics

When it comes to your brand, you want to be sure your content is easily recognizable across all marketing channels.

So let’s kick things off by taking a look at the basics.

Logo placement

Think of your logo as the anchor of your brand.

Why?

Because a logo is one of the most memorable elements when it comes to visual branding.

When you think of big name companies (like Apple for example) what is the first thing that comes to mind?

I’m sure their simple logo & clean aesthetic popped into your head immediately, right?

That’s because Apple has a very strong brand identity that’s been carefully crafted over time:

Everything about their company, from their products to their ads are sleek, stylish & expertly branded.

And although not every email apple sends out sticks to an identical template, the logo is always front and center so you can quickly and easily identify their brand in a matter of seconds.

In the same way that apple brands all of their communications, you can include your logo in emails to instantly boost brand recognition and awareness.

We recommend adding your logo to the header, or top quarter of your emails. That way readers recognize you as soon as your emails are opened, without needing to read a single word of your message.

Stick to the right colors

You know those paint color palettes you get at Home Depot when you’re trying to redecorate your house? You should have one for your brand.

A good place to start is with your logo. Pull out its main colors and then find different hues and gradients to use when you need to add an eye-catching, but still familiar pop of color.

Determine what colors you will use for your body copy, your headings, your hyperlinks and your buttons and STICK to them!

For example, let’s say you drive by McDonald’s only to see that the golden arches are suddenly green? And the bold red was replaced with bright pink?

Even if you never eat fast food, I’m sure driving past a green & pink McDonald’s would be quite a shock.

Why?

Because their branding is consistent! You always know what to expect.

You want to infuse that same type of consistency in your emails, because it builds trust with your list!

Project management tool, Asana does an excellent job of color branding in their email messages:

The illustrations used stick to a specific color palette, the hyperlinks are set to blue, and their CTA buttons are set to purple.

By using this color scheme repeatedly, Asana users are sure to recognize the brand as soon as their messages hit the inbox!

Choose the right fonts

Sure, this one seems basic…

But the reality is, this can actually make a huge impact on brand presentation in your emails!

Whenever you write content you should always aim to keep your font consistent.

But choose wisely…

While certain snazzy fonts might do a great job of expressing your brand on your website, your email messages are not the place to get too creative with your font choice.

Here are our recommendations for the best font settings for your email content:

  • Font type: serif – Serif fonts (like Georgia) are not just easy on the eyes, they’re also effective cross browser. This means your content will display exactly the same on different devices. Start by picking one main font type that you’ll use for all your main content, then consider spicing it up with different (but complementary!) fonts for stand-out content like headers and quotes.
  • Body font size: 14 to 16 – The body is the gist of your content. It’s what makes up the chunk of your entire email, so it’s important to get it right. We always recommend using font size 15 because it’s the most optimal size for reading.
  • Headline font size: 22-25 – To separate your email content, and make it much easier to read, you’d want to use headlines, very much like a blog post. Keep the font size around 22 to 25 to help your headlines stand out in the best way possible.
  • Font color: Black (ish) – Although black (#000) is the industry average in email, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t spice things up at all. In fact, you can use font colors to stand out in a good way… if they’re cohesive with your overall branding.

Headspace, an online meditation service, keeps their fonts consistent whether it be their headlines, body text, buttons or footers:

Notice how something as simple as committing to a font size and family for each text element of their emails creates a smooth, consistent and well branded look.

Now, take a look at your own emails.

Are you using a consistent font size and font family throughout, or is there room to improve?

You can always experiment with other font settings but, again, be sure you stay consistent… and focus on readability!

Your footer

Last (literally) but certainly not least, your footer.

Your footer is not just a place to include your business’ contact information. It’s also an excellent spot to include CTA buttons, links to your website or maybe even a free download.

And don’t forget social sharing!

Be sure to include social icons in the footer of your email for any readers who are looking to explore your brand presence elsewhere.

Take a look at these footers used in email messages from Medium and Airbnb:

Although these companies have chosen to include different elements and color schemes, their footers are clean, branded and give readers an opportunity to further connect with their brand in the app store, on their website, or through their social channels.

When it comes to the basics, remember that every piece of your email (from the logo in your header to the information in your footer) says a little bit about who you are as a brand and how you want to connect with your audience.

2. Dive into design

We already touched on some basics, but when you get into branding, you really need to have a more advanced design plan in place.

So, do you have a style guide?

If not, here are some helpful ideas to get some additional design specifics figured out:

select the right visuals

It’s true that a picture speaks a thousand words, and the same goes for emails. 

And although you want to include relevant and compelling imagery in your emails, you also want to make sure that there’s a consistency when it comes to the style of your images.

What mood, style and tone do you want your imagery to convey?

Maybe you want all of your photos to be black and white or have the same filter. Maybe your images will simply be illustrations or maybe you’ll stick with photos of your product in use.

Whatever you choose, be sure your images convey your brand personality and stick to your brand attributes.

Take a peek at the visuals Bose audio uses in their email campaigns:

Their emails have a mix of photos of their products as well as people. All the images uses have the same coloring and style giving their messages a smooth and uniform look.

When adding visuals to your own emails, be sure the imagery you use has this same cohesive feel!

Keep consistency with templates

We’ve mentioned consistency quite a bit here.

And as you can probably tell, developing your own design style and branding is quite the process. There are a lot of components to iron out when you’re looking for uniformity that builds brand awareness and trust.

So you might be thinking to yourself, “Sure, that sounds good, but how can I keep things consistent across all of my emails?”

Well, that’s where email templates come in! With templates, you can build the perfect email blueprint that can be used again and again for all of your email campaigns!

Product design platform, Invision does an excellent job with their newsletter template layout:

Their template is sleek, easy to absorb and well organized so you know what to expect and what to look for week after week.

Not only does this make it easier for readers, but it’s a great time saver for the Invision team! Each week they simply swap out the images, article titles, summaries, and button hyperlinks for their newsletter.

Templates are an excellent way to maintain brand consistency through your messages without having to start from scratch!

Consider creating templates for any messages or updates you send out on a regular basis to keep your emails looking cohesive and well branded.

3. Find your brand voice

Every message you send out to your readers tells them a little something about you.

So think of your brand voice as an expression of the people behind it.

Sticking to a consistent brand voice helps customers better understand who your company is and what you’re all about. It helps your customer better identify with you.

Your brand voice is made up of four components: character, tone, language and values.

To better define your brand voice, you’ll need to answer these questions:

  • What characteristics best describe your brand? (character)
  • How do you want your brand to make people feel? (tone)
  • How do you want your brand to be perceived? (language)
  • What are the things that your brand cares about the most? (values)

Character

To define your brands’ character,  visualize your brand as a living, breathing person.

Envision someone who “characterizes” what your brand is all about.

Are they a man or a woman? Are they young are old? Are they street smart or book smart? How are they dressed?

While it may seem a bit odd to assign human characteristics to your business, if you think about it, we personify a lot of things.

Why?

Because things that feel more human are easier to relate to!

Taking the time to determine the character of your brand not only helps you better communicate with your audience but will make your marketing efforts much easier in the long run.

Tone

Think of your tone as the way your brand speaks.

In order for your audience to “get acquainted” with your business you’ll need to determine what kind of tone you will communicate with.

A few words to describe your tone might be:

  • Sincere
  • Proud
  • Down-to-earth
  • Comical
  • Witty
  • Enthusiastic
  • Humble
  • Intelligent
  • Outspoken

Determining your brand’s tone will help you communicate the character of your business through words, making your brand more recognizable and more relatable to your readers.

LANGUAGE

If you want customers to trust you as an expert in your industry, you need to write you like you know what you’re talking about.

In other words, the language you use should convey authority and expertise.

On the other hand, you also need to communicate in a way that’s relatable for your readers.

So how do you blend those two ideas together?

Well, your brand’s tone is something you need to consider, but when it comes to language, the most important thing is knowing your audience!

If you know who you’re writing to, you’ll be able to communicate in a way that’s easy to absorb… and appreciate!

For example, if your target audience is primarily college-age males, you’d use language that is much different than what you’d use for 30-something mothers.

You want your language to echo the voice of your readers because it humanizes you, and makes your brand more relatable.

If you’re writing for an academic audience, you can lean towards a more formal language with larger, more uncommon words. If not, stick to basic language with common words that feel more conversational.

And stay away from jargon unless you’re 100% sure your readers will know exactly what you mean.

Bottom line? Choose your words carefully and strategically to maximize your impact!

VALUES

Above all things,  make sure your brand voice is a reflection of your business’ core values.

Your brand is so much more than the products or services that you sell. You brand is about what you stand for and what your purpose is.

To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, its a very noisy world. And were not going to get the chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.” – Steve Jobs

While you might update the look of your brand through the years to stay current, one thing will always stay the same, your brand values.

bringing the 4 brand voice elements together

Now that you know what your brand voice is all about and why it’s important, you will probably start to recognize the brand voice of emails that hit your own inbox.

Based off just these two emails from Harry’s shaving company, what can we assume about the components of their brand voice?

  • Character: A laid back and casual guy who takes pride in his beard presentation
  • Tone: Comical and friendly – Sentences like “don’t end up like this guy.” or “it’s the best way to avoid awkward returns.”
  • Language: Informal and conversational – Choice of words like “crazy, right?”
  • Values: They care that their customers get a good shave! When you’re ready to up your “beard game” Harry’s will be there. It’s pretty apparent from their emails isn’t it?

Remember that the best brand is a well defined brand.

So once you’ve set those standards, you can be sure every message you send meets them.

4. Get your timing right

All the other practical tips listed above will help you develop a brand that is instantly recognizable, but none of it will matter if you aren’t putting it in front of your audience on a regular basis.

Setting expectations

Don’t just send what you promise, send when you promise.

Subscribers can only get into the habit of opening and reading your email if they get into the habit of expecting your emails the same time.

Take it a step further and set expectations of when they will hear from you from the moment they opt-in to your list.

Let your subscribers know when they can expect to receive your emails and how often.

Finding your Optimal Send times

Before you can promise anything, you need to know what your subscribers opening habits are and when they’re MOST likely to open their emails.

Depending on your target audience, you need to figure out what days and times work best.

We won’t dive into this too much here, so if you want to learn more about email timing, check out our article on the best time to send email campaigns!

Stick to your timing

Once you’ve decided on the best times for your audience (and done testing to be sure you got it right) it’s time to start sending!

 

Email branding wrap up

While we all know that email is the most important element in digital marketing, sadly most of us don’t pay attention to the finer details in our emails.

And if you’re not taking care of the details that leave a lasting impression on your subscribers, then something’s gotta give.

At every step of crafting your email campaign, always make sure to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does this email look like something my brand would send?
  • Is the content relevant to my brand image?
  • Does the email feel like it’s written for my subscribers?

After all, the customer experience journey is not just about a single email, but a collection of experiences that add up to the customer’s expectations and desire for your brand.

So what now?

Well, we know you’re anxious to get your next campaign up and running…

Just don’t fire it off without devoting time and resources to design an email template that’s both reader-friendly and eye-catching.

Once you’ve created your own branded template, you can maintain that consistency with just a few clicks – each and every time you’re ready to send!

 

Kristen Dahlberg

Content Manager at Sendlane
As a member of the Sendlane content marketing team, Kristen focuses on everything from organization to content curation and process improvement. She enjoys variety and the challenge of learning the best way to accomplish each new goal.

Outside of work, Kristen spends as much time as possible at the beach, soaking up the San Diego sunshine!

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